Thanksgiving is the holiday the Friends are best known for celebrating, but the hit NBC sitcom has also seen the eponymous pals decking the halls and ringing in the New Year on occasion. And honestly, the show just makes things better, especially when you’re filled with that end-of-the-year existential dread. So this year, if you’d rather spend the holidays with the Central Perk gang rather than people you actually know, there are 3 New Year's Eve episodes of Friends you can take in.
Of all the holidays, New Year’s Eve isn’t one that characters celebrate on TV all that often — at least, not in conjunction with the rest of us. But Friends aired during a time where it wasn’t all that uncommon to air new episodes up until the last couple weeks of the year, and seasons had as many as 24 episodes each. This was also during that long ago period when we watched TV week to week when it actually aired — a crazy concept these days, I know.
This New Year’s Eve is actually the perfect one to watch along with the crew. If you recall, there was a recent mass influx of internet outrage when people discovered that as of Jan. 1, 2019, all 10 seasons of Friends were leaving Netflix. Fortunately, this was very quickly rectified. If you were relieved by this news, it seems only appropriate to watch at least these few episodes — and then you can do the same thing again next year.
“The One With The Monkey”
The very first season of Friends featured a New Year’s episode. Pretty much everyone was still single at this point, so they make a pact not to bring dates to their NYE party. But the plan starts to fall apart when Phoebe meets David (Hank Azaria), the scientist who becomes her on-again, off-again love interest for most of the series. Then the rest of the friends cave: Chandler invites his own sometimes significant other, Janice; Monica brings along a very un-fun Fun Bobby, Paolo books an earlier flight back from Italy, and Joey meets a single mom working as an elf.
Ross (who at least has Marcel the monkey) sees this as a betrayal, but in the end, they’re all alone when the ball drops. It’s very indicative of the early seasons of the show: Sure, they have romance, but your friends are the only ones you can count on in the end. Chandler still demands a midnight kiss though, which Joey delivers to his reluctance (the “two men kiss as a joke” thing doesn’t hold up so well).
“The One with All the Resolutions"
There isn’t another New Years episode until Season 5. This one picks up the way the Season 1 episode ended, with the friends sharing midnight kisses with each other. At this point, Chandler and Monica are still keeping their romance, which was kindled at Ross’s wedding to Emily in the Season 4 finale, a secret, but Joey knows, and helps them orchestrate a way to kiss each other.
After the festivities, each of them share their resolutions for the year, all of which they fail at by the end of the episode. The hilarity of Ross’s leather pants situation aside, the biggest plot point of this episode is that Rachel finds out about Chandler and Monica when she overhears an innuendo-filled phone call (the true benefit/curse of landlines). Joey is overjoyed that he finally has someone to talk about this secret with, and it’s the beginning of the end for Mondler (aka the show’s best relationship) sneaking around.
"The One with the Routine"
By the next year, a lot has changed — Monica and Chandler have taken things public and are are living together while Joey is totally into his new Australian dancer roommate, Janine. He gets the perfect opportunity to gauge where they’re at when she invites him to be her dance partner at a pre-taping for the Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve show. It feels like we’re supposed to be really invested in their relationship, but it’s pretty obvious things are doomed from the start, even with the romantic way the episode ends.
Honestly, who cares about them when there’s “the routine.” Monica and Ross remind us once again of just how charmed and Patridge-like their life was growing up when they weirdly express their intense love of the annual event, which Janine very kindly invites them along to. There, they try to earn the approval of the director by performing a dance they once did for a competition 15 years prior. It’s just as dorky as you’d expect, and actually paints Ross in a good light, which is kind of a Y2K miracle in and of itself. It’s a perfect fun moment that reminds you why you watch the show in the first place.
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